This is all assuming there’ll eventually be a back issue market for anything coming out right now.

§ June 13th, 2012 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 12 Comments

So this week is the first time one of those digital download codes turned up in a Marvel comic I follow (Incredible Hulk, in case you were wondering), which got me to wondering about something.

The Marvels that have a digital download code printed inside protect the code from being stolen in-store by hooligans and ne’er-do-wells by covering it with a black label, which looks a little something…like this:


Of course, it’s not as if someone couldn’t just peel it off and jot down the code anyway, but as I haven’t yet experienced a floor littered with these little black labels, I think that hasn’t become a real problem yet.

One thing I’ve been thinking about, from the “dude what sells the old comics in a collectors’ market” point of view, is this: remember Marvel Value Stamps? Those little stamp drawings that appeared on editorial pages/letter pages/etc. in ’70s Marvels that you would clip and save for…well, something or another, I guess. Anyway, for folks like me who, as I said, deal in back issue sales, those things are the bane of my existence, as you really need to go through and check that the particular comics that had said Value Stamps in them weren’t clipped out. Because, if that stamp is clipped, suddenly that Wolverine appearance in Incredible Hulk #181, normally worth exactly one billion dollars, is now only worth about five or ten cents, max. (NOTE: pricing approximate.) So, yes, a missing stamp does negatively affect the value of the comic.

So now there’s this thing, the little black sticker covering the code. I suppose technically if the sticker is missing, the comic would be incomplete (or at least, altered from its original condition as released) and therefore probably shouldn’t be sold as a mint or near mint copy. Which means, if I start dealing in used copies of these (and I really haven’t, as of yet), I’m going to have to start checking to make sure that sticker is still intact. (I should note that I haven’t experimented with the sticker in my Hulk comic yet, so I don’t know if the sticker can be reattached…I’m guessing “no.”)

Before you say anything…yes, this is a dumb thing to be thinking about. But I guarantee you, this situation is going to come up and I’m going to have to deal with it at some point. …Not that I’m looking forward to that buyer/seller interaction:

“Well, this copy of Avengers Vs. X-Men II: The X-Avengening #3 would normally be worth about ten bucks….”

“Yeah?”

“…Except the digital code sticker has been removed. Sorry, this is only about a four dollar book now.”

“…What. Seriously?”

“Yeah, really. …This isn’t my proudest moment.”

Or maybe I can go the “professional grading” route, where some of those companies squirm out of pinning a book down to a specific condition by giving it a “qualified” grade based on its apparent appearance, instead of the grade that actually should be applied based on the damage you don’t immediately see. (You know, “Qualified Near Mint, loose centerfold” — that’s probably a “VG” to you and me.) …Of course, if I ever actually write “Qualified Near Mint, missing digital code sticker” on a book I’m trying to sell at the shop, I do welcome any of you to come put me out of my misery.

(By the way, I’m totally pulling that sticker off my Incredible Hulk comic…I want to see what all this digital comic hoohar is about.)

12 Responses to “This is all assuming there’ll eventually be a back issue market for anything coming out right now.”

  • LFC says:

    I was thinking the same thing! Also, the code is only good from one year from publish date. Maybe people won’t care? They probably will tho’

  • Jer says:

    I think the most shocking thing in this post is the idea that “Avengers Vs. X-Men II: The X-Avengening #3″ might someday be worth $4 even with the little sticker removed.

    I can only imagine that in this strange dystopian future a loaf of bread will cost around $10 and that the original cover price for “Avengers Vs. X-Men II: The X-Avengening #3″ was $15…

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    I have the first 6 issues of John Byrne’s Next Men with the coupons you could send in for a trading card set. I remember frantically hunting them down in 1992 or 93 but I didn’t make it in time for the card offer.

    Today I would still rather have the cards than the “complete” comics with the coupons in them.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    1) Pull black label back about half way (but do not remove)
    2) Add a dab of rubber cement to inside of label, spread conservatively.
    3) Replace label and set any DC Absolute Edition on top of label.
    4) Wait 30 minutes while cement dries

    Cha-ching! You just saved six bucks.

    5) Realize that, in the time it took to conduct this ridiculous operation, you could have been reading a Swamp Thing comic.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    Of course, step 1.5 would be:
    1.5) Copy and redeem code.

  • g23 says:

    Comics grading is repulsive. Any way you slice it.

  • ComicBob says:

    (Let me push my imaginary glasses up on my nose)
    I would like to refer you to Amazing Spider-man #238 & Fantastic Four #252. Once upon a time, the inserted “Tattooz” decal actually made a difference on the value and the grade of the 1st appearance of Hobgoblin. That was until everyone found out that the exact same decal was removable from the Fantastic Four issue and placed in copies of Amazing Spider-man. In your instance, a piece of the book was clipped, cut, and missing which actually affected the book itself. A clipped coupon’s reverse side was normally a panel of the story. Since there is no identifier to make the Digital Code cover unique to each individual comic, and since the digital code does expire after 1 year’s time, I do not see it affecting the long term grade and/or value of the book. There is the ethical question of selling a used copy of the book where the digital download has already been claimed prior to the expiration date. However, after that year has expired, the digital code cover does not enhance, or diminish the actual comic in any way. Another benchmark you could use would be CGC. They do not grade a book in a bag, or with any inserted material like cards, armbands, blessed tissues, or other items. The book is the only thing graded. I would bet my copy of Tribe #1 that CGC will not use a missing digital cover code to evaluate the grade of the comic. Although I am willing to stake my Tribe #1 on this theory, I refuse to pay any money to CGC to actually test this out. Hopefully you can rest better tonight?

  • Robert in New Orleans says:

    Perhaps I am a bit ‘teched’ in the head, but I don’t see anything wrong with these lines of inquiry. Isn’t it like collecting toys where some people never open the packaging and grade both the package and toy with such terms as ‘mint in mint box’? I know some toy collectors don’t even save the boxes the toys come in, but we all know that the toy is more valuable in a secondary sale if it does include the original packaging, more so if un-opened.

    As a former music retailer, I sold a lot of vinyl LPs and the customers always preferred a ‘still sealed’ album to an opened copy. When re-selling vintage original pressings, un-opened copies can be worth a fortune for the right title. Any lack of original packaging that the album came with as a first pressing will detract from its desirability and therefore resale value. (Think Beatles White Album with the four color photos of the fab four or the Dylan Greatest Hits with the cool psychedelic poster of Bob’s profile or Dark Side of the Moon with all the stickers and posters that we all immediately misplaced) There are many old LPs that came with nifty stickers on the shrink wrap that were usually discarded with the wrap when opened, if the album is now sought after, the sticker will increase its value if intact.

    I guess all I’m saying is that humans are nuts!

  • Michael G says:

    How about a comic where crucial story-event panels are hidden behind a scratch-off coating like that used on lottery tickets? In fact I can’t believe they didn’t already try that in the early 90′s.

  • Roger Green says:

    Yes, I’ve had experience with coupons cut out of DC Comics to go to that amusement park, and the like. “No, it’s not worth as much,, sonny.”

  • Ben says:

    About 5 years ago I bought a copy of ‘This Man This Monster’ and a respectable run of Kirby’s Captain America for 25p (about 40 cents) each from one of the bigger comics chain stores here in the UK. All of them were in fantastic condition. Apart from the missing Value Stamp.

    That an inch square missing from one page should make a comic worthless is frankly absurd. Complete and/or Readable should be the only things that matter. Still, keep it up if it means I’ll be getting more bargains like that…

  • Jason says:

    I am pondering the same thing. Originally when I saw the digital copy on the front i thought “Cool I can read the comic digitally and not affect the condition of the paper copy” Then I got the comic home and found the tag. Dammed if I do dammed if i don’t.